Saturday, January 31, 2015

(IOU) Keith Stone

The Illuminati Univeristy Student of the Week is Sophmore Keith Stone.

Keith transferred here from Keystone Jr College and has become a fixture at most campus social events. 

Keith Stone
Always Smooth (4)
The Ladies Man (3)
Keith-Stone-on-the-Spot (2)
Limited Beer Connosuer (1)

Transfer from Keystone Jr College

Equip:  Ballcap, Mullet, six pack of keystone light, Beer Kozy of Satan
 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Viva la Gnome! Viva la France!

One of the items that remains on the back burner for is my Gnomish Space Marines.  Outside of finishing up the 'Runtherd from the new 40k Gretchin set as a prototypical Hill Martian, I'm more focused on getting my traditional gnomes back on the battlefield after a long hiatus. 

Lucky for us, a French wargamer Le Fil a Plomb has taken a concept of Gnome: 1889 on Mars and run with it. 

Besides setting up a Martian city, he has assembled a fine Prussian army that easily mixes the Olley's Armies Prussian Scrunt and Brigade Games' German Gnomes.

I can't wait to see what he does next!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

What to Run at Mepacon Spring 2015

GM Event Registration for Mepacon opens up on February 1st and I haven't a thing to wear!

It is my local con, even if it did move off the mountain of Clarks Summit and into the Hilton in Scranton. (I try to avoid driving on I-81 north of Wilkes-Barre.  At least I can get to Clarks Summit via the Turnpike.)   It looks like I'll be at the con for Friday night only,with a 20% chance of making it back Saturday for the auction, so it's time for the internet to help me decide what I should run!

Toon - Cthulhu Comes to Springfield - My old Lovecraft/Simpsons game is ready to get pulled out of its file and run at a moment's notice.  Probably rewriting the Duffman episode, the other three hour-long "episodes" can stand on its own.

Call of Cthulhu -Attack of the Atomic Bikini Reptile Women... In 3-D!!!   Some fun B-Movie horror using CoC.  Originally from Worlds of Cthulhu magazine.  Character generation at the table and off we go!

Burning Plastic - Capture the Flag - Green Army Men are either a huge success, or non-entity.

Gnomish Space Marines:  Force me to write up the rules for my Sci-Fi game.  No minis this time. 

Talislanta -  Not in the mood to run D&D or Hackmaster, but I could throw something fun for Tal.  Crysle Dungeon II - Electric Blue Ardua Boogaloo?

Diplomacy - This never gets offered and would be a great counter to all the Magic and 40k tourneys.

Battletech - Force me to paint up my stuff and run an Intro game
 
Kobolds Ate My Baby - lluminati University  :  Kobolds running around IOU?  What could go wrong?
 
GURPS IOU. - Scavenger Hunt:  With enough demand, I would rebuild my favorite con game ever AND use GURPS 3rd Edition.

And remember, you can vote for more than one option!!!

The History of the Gnome World, Part 1

IN THE BEGINNING:

There were gnomes.

They were cute lovable woodland creatures who lived in quaint homes and frolicked with the animals.

But like all creatures granted with intelligence, the gnomes
eventually learned and began working with nature than working within

Early Gnome Cave Drawings  (http://ebeth.typepad.com)
Even the Swiss, who closely resemble the primitive gnomes of antiquity, focused on cheese making, mining, ironworking, and tinkering.

The Wanderlust
From time immemorial, gnomes have gone through a cycle of behavior modern gnome psychologists have only called The Wanderlust.  Gnomes by nature are a very community driven, yet insular race.  Many times gnomes will not regularly deal with a neighboring tribe or village unless it involves trade, festivals, or some dire need. 

Every generation of so, The Wanderlust, a strange desire to go off and see the world, affects a certain percentage of gnomes.  They will drop whatever they are doing to travel out of the cozy confines of the village,whether by foot, water, or air.  However, the further the gnomes travel, the more likely they will find a comfy spot and settle down for a bit.

The Return
After an undetermined period of time, some of The Wanderlust gnomes will be affected by the reverse phenomenon, The Return.  Gnomes attempt to return to their home villages as fast as they can  Upon their return, many tell of horrible stories of what is beyond the safety of the gnome village.   Even for those who tell of positive experiences, those are misunderstood and added to the legends.

The Prison
The after effect of the Return has been dubbed The Prison.  With all the strange tales and anxiety over the outside world, gnome elders, led by the wizards, effectively shut off all communication with other communities.  This crackdown would go on for another undetermined period of time, usually a half a generation.  By then, gnomes of average levels of curiosity have built up the courage to explore again and meet the old friends and trading partners.  The distant lands, however would be forgotten,e A few years later, the cycle begins a new.  It is unsure as to how many generations of gnomes have gone through this.

The Gnoman Empire
While the majority of gnomes resided in what we now call Switzerland, the first large gnomish civilization was established elsewhere.  A larger than normal collection of gnomes suffering from the Wanderlust congregated at the junction of the Pi and Za Rivers.  Two brothers, Minimus and Maximus Caesar were a bit more motivated than your average gnome, and staged a revolt of the village elders using wolf riders.   While the smaller Caesar focused on infrastructure and improving farming, Maximus worked on improving gnome technology and developing a military defense force.

The strangest thing occurred during the Return.  Instead of heading towards their home villages, hundreds of gnomes heading to this new town.  The brothers then turned the isolationism of the Prison to their advantage.  They warned their inhabitants that the wilderness was a hostile place, filled with feral gnomes and other dangerous creatures, but their new city, Gnoman, was an island of civilization and prosperity that could expand into the wilderness and conquer it.  Before the next Wanderlust had hit the city, it had expanded out in all directions, conquering everything and everyone that stood in it's way.

The Gnoman Empire was born. 

Gnomish Wanderlust disappeared for a few generations, overriden by Gnoman Expansion.  When it did finally hit, it simply stretched the Empire further, reaching areas that hadn't seen a traditional gnome in millenia.

While those wars are mired in the myths and legends of the area, one thing is for certain:  The Return occurred right after the Gnoman had to fight their first defensive war ever, one against the Scottish Highlanders. 

Many did not make it back to Gnoman, rather setting up communities in the areas we now call France, Germany, and Switzerland.   The ones on the border of the Gnoman sphere of influence simply vanished.   It is rumored that Gnoman Legions still operate in various corners of the world, marrying and recruiting from the local populace to refill their ranks.

The "Peaceful" Age
The gnomish cycle finally renewed, local enclaves solidified their power using Gnoman military knowledge to crush the village elders.  Baronies, Principalities, and small Kingdoms emerged, uniting multiple villages under one banner.

Within the dark corners of each land, evil began to slowly seep into society, twisted and contorting simple gnomes into vassals of the diabolical.  Witches and Vampires began to emerge out of the shadows and began to rule small portions of the gnome lands.

To counteract this Gnomish Wizards began a societal crackdown, barring gnomish movement and breaking off communication with the new settlements, until the distant lands were forgotten and the wanderlust started up again.   The also collected as many of the now-wild wolves that generations ago had been used as Gnoman Cavalry and were now being used by the evil entities and attempted to domesticate them.

That is why today, wizards on the battlefield can still summon the bravest of wolves to fight for them.


The Age of Exploration
When a group of French gnomes known as the Britauns crossed the Chanel #5, like all gnomish explorers, they were amazed to discover the land already populated with gnomes. They were a poor, weak folk who use subsistence farming and surface mining to survive. These unwashed were happy to see the Britons and willingly gave them whatever meager hospitality they could offer. Despite a dreary climate and horrible local food, the Britauns set up shop, lumbering the primeavil forest, and teaching the unwashed underground mining.

Two things surprised the Britons. First, they discovered ruins with the appearance of the Gnoman Empire and a few of their secrets hidden within. Second was the appearance of the Scots.

The Scots poured out of the highlands and tried lay waste to area, as they had done countless times before. The Unwashed fled instantly, but the Britons held their ground, much to the surprise of the highlanders. The Britons adapted their tactics to drive the highlanders away, decimating their ranks with wave after wave of volley fire.

As the Britons entered the Scottish highlands, they were met by an odd site, a number of the Scottish clan leaders accompanying one lone Gnoman Centurion. This Gnoman, Petronius Balboa, was the leader of the Scots and admitted his admiration of the Britons' tactics and a desire for peace. The Briton's leaders desired a continuation of hostilities, but one Briton general, Adrian Hasty, convinced the others that their resources and men were stretched to their limit. The ensuing treaty formed an agreed border between the Scots and a formally recognized Country of Britain. Both sides would build a short wall on this border as a symbolic gesture, naming it Adrian's Rockwall.

With the Scottish threat contained for now, they attempted to expand to the rumored Emerald Island located across Chanel #6. The gnomes they met there called themselves Leprechauns, and were just as vicious and far more magical than the highlanders. The British evacuated quickly, but they did make an alliance with the rebel Orangeman on the island. The British fashion sense also left a mark on the Irish, as they would change from wild men to dignified Leprechauns in top hats and coats.

Surrounded by angry Irish, possibly angry Scots, rumors of angry Viking gnomes, and one relatively safe water border with France, the British retracted and focused internally. They built up their agriculture and industry, and educated the Unwashed Gnomes. From this point forward, they were called the Wash, which in the local dialect turned into Welsh. They were still the lowest caste in the social system, but the British admired their hard work and attention to detail when building contraptions, and most suprisingly, ships.

When the next era of wanderlust occurred, the British rulers looked at other ways to expand their empire. With vast forests and surrounded by the seas, the British focused on shipbuilding. Their bigger faster ships allowed them to dominate the shipping market, opening up cheaper, faster trade with the outlying areas of the Gnomish Homeland. To expand the markets to use their shipping, they sponsored expeditions to the far reaches of the Seven Seas. Explorers, bolstered by a squad of marines, would investigate about 5-10 miles inland to ensure no hostile forces or dangerous geography would affect their choice of a port. Harbor facilities would be constructed, and an open invitation to all nationalities to come and live in the new town under relative freedom.

As the port was established, the explorers would venture out until they found the next suitable harbor candidate. In some cases, such as along the African Coast, the British ports served as trade stations, rest stops for longer voyages, or even drop off points for cargo. Few people ventured into the wilderness. In other instances, such as New Scotland, mass emigration forced the British out of the town's governance, but their shipping interests still dominated the area economically.

As time past, and the gnomish desire to withdraw back to their homeland kicked in, they sometimes would give governance to the local races, rather than the gnome colonists. It is little written, but some British interests were given to Teddy Bear loyalists, and tax revenues would sail back to Britain. The system worked until a) Teddy Bear and Gnome Pirates discovered the secret treasury on New Providence in the Azores. and b) the Teddy Bears in New Britain began an insurrection against the Teddy Bear overlords, who were far more draconian than the British ever were. The Picnic for Independence sparked off a series of revolts around the world, not only in the trade colonies, but spreading to Gnome homelands. When the dust settled, the cycle of gnomish civilization has seemed to stop on exploration, and the world has never been the same.

Next: Part 2: The Dark Specter of Nomepoleon I

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

CoC #24: Masks of Nyarlathotep #4: London: The Talented Mr Shipley

March 4, 1925
Upon realizing that Doc Millheim and Brian Nichols had screwed the pooch with interviewing their leads, Doctor Bob Wintermute took over the logistics for our investigators.  But first, a trip to Harrod's was in order

Lucky the group Wintermute had a high enough Credit Rating and rolled well enough on his Persuade to convince the staff at Harrod's to provide him with a shotgun for quail shooting and a few boxes of shells.

Doc Millheim had wandered off into the city in search of a sword-cane, but got overwhelmed with London and came back only with a nifty cane with a gilded top and a white top hat to go with his trademark white Searsucker suit.

After Harrod's and a quick stop back at the hotel to stow away their purchase, Wintermute and Nichols hit the seedier side of town to troll some Irish bars looking for connections to some more weapons.  Nichols couldn't get the time of day inside any of the establishments, and Dr Wintermute needed to pull him out of one potentially nasty encounter, but finally, they met with someone who provided them with a late night encounter in some back alley for a single Lee-Enfield Rifle at 3am.  

The rest of the afternoon was spent among the stacks of the library.  Nichols went insane as he uncovered more gruesome details of the demise of the Carlysle Expedition.  He also pulled very creditable information regarding Sir Audrey Penhew.

After the library and a late dinner, they met their Irish contact for the rifle, and nothing bad happened whatsoever.

March 5, 1925
The group spent the entire day touring  the British Museum speaking with the resident Egyptologists.
Their experts claimed the Carlysle Expedition was wild goose chase with no scholarly bearing  and  most of the artifacts that were unearthed were quite poor.

March 6, 1925
In the morning, everyone met with Mickey Mahoney, editor at the Daily Scoop.   Mahoney admitted that Elias was interested in a series of Egyptian Ritual murders that been plaguing London.  He had teased Mahoney with a story about a cult but Mahoney wasn't offering enough. 

Elias had shown interest in three articles in the newspaper's dead file:  one regarding the ritual murders, being investigated by James Barrington of Scotland Yard,  One regarding a series of murders out in the countryside, and one about a talented artist in Soho named Miles Shipley.
Elias had only scribbled some notes and left without saying thank you.  He did not seem like his normal self, rather distracted, or possibly frightened.

Later, Wintermute met with Edward Gavigan at the Penhew Foundation, under the auspices as an insurance investigator reviewing yet another policy from the Carlysle Expedition.  Gavigan appeared to be quite forthcoming, questioning a number of motives of the staff, including allowing a pregnant woman (Hypatia Masters) on such a harrowing mission.   Admitted that the expedition ran out of the initial funding and since approval would take some time, they decided to summer in East Africa to avoid the heat.  A rather unimpressive tour of the Penhew Foundation headquarters ended the visit.

Doc Millheim and Nichols decided that, while Wintermute was out, that they would check out Miles Shipley.   The door to his home was answered by an elderly woman who said she was his grandmother.  She invited the pair in, and took them upstairs to Miles' studio.  Miles was not painting, but offered his collection of paintings for sale.

The duo then proceeded to review each painting looking for clues (Keeper Note: Of course, the disturbing matter of the paintings called for a TON of SAN checks.  Both found a painting of the God of the Bloody Tongue surrounded by diminutive worshippers in Egypt(?), but then the results of the SAN checks kicked in.  Doc Millheim missed going temporarily insane by 1 and only knew he need !  Nichols was not so lucky with an active SAN of 29, and suffered long-term insanity.)

Upon viewing all of the paintings, Nichols staggered back, immediately regretted reading all those books and knew that everyone knew too much, especially Doc Millheim.  When the Mrs Shipley  offered the way back downstairs and opened a door.  Millheim, realizing it was not the door they had come through, shouted in protest.  Nichols decided neither could be trusted and proceeded to jump out the third-story window, over the brick and wrought iron wall, and off into the streets of SoHo. 
(Keeper Note:  Again, phenomenal rolls, this time Jump and Luck, allowed Nichols to crash through the window with minimal injury, clear the wall, and disappear into the night out of the game.)  

Everyone in the room was shocked by Nichols' action, but Doc Millheim noticed that, thanks to an knocked over lamp, the grandmother's shadow was not of an elderly woman, was smart enough to fly down the stairs while the residents stared out of the broken window, and was a block away by the time they searched the house for him.  The house was less one painting, as he had snagged the one with the God of the Bloody Tongue in it.  THAT one would remain his... forever. 

As he stumbled through the streets of Soho, every synapse in his brain fired in perfect unison as his consciousness pieced together all of the facts.  "Everything made sense now."   Between the style of  paintings, all the reading they had done, and all the clues scattered everywhere, it finally clicked.

Nylarlathotep

Nylarlathotep, who, in the few times the books referred to him by name referred to him as a minor entity, a two-bit Loki, was indeed everything.

The Cult of the Bloody Tongue
The Cult of the Black Pharaoh
The Cult of the Beast
The Cult of the Bloated Woman

... all extensions of Nyarlathotep's influence.

Eventually he came to his senses and managed to hail a taxi back to the hotel.

Back at the hotel, Wintermute was meeting with Steven O'Hara and Joshua Wanisko at the bar, when Millheim could be seen scuttling across the lobby, a large rectangular object under his arm. 

They all went up to Millheim's home and the they could not did not believe a word of his story.  However, upon seeing the painting and failing a SAN check, Dr Wintermute began to understand the gravity of the situation. 

The next day, they arrived back at the Shipley residence, shotguns and rifles in hand, and were met by a peculiar open front door.  Everyone went inside, save young Anthony Parks, who was given the job of staying outside for back-up.    They cleared out most of the first floor, but when coming upon the kitchen, Wintermute, the point man, froze for a second, walked directly over to a pot on the stove and poured a bowl of soup for himself. 

The rest of the investigators looked in horror as the spoonful of small wonton that Wintermute thought he was, in actuality, an eyeball.

*slurp*

Doc Millheim rushed over to knock the bowl of soup out of Wintermute's hands, but in doing so, could see Grandma Shipley sitting in the near corner, dressed in what could be described as a tattered beach robe?  In March?   She did not appear too happy.

Bob had put his shotgun against the wall in the hallway when he felt the urge to have some soup, so the duo in the kitchen only a camera to protect themselves.  Steven turned the corner the fired scattershot at the grandmother.  After getting hit with the shot, Mrs Shipley's image of a kindly old, if perturbed grandmother was replaced by that of a bipedal snake person!

... in a tattered beach robe.

At that point, even at point blank range, Steve missed additional shots.  Doc Millheim tried to distract the Serpent person, only to have a knitting needle thrown into his shoulder.  Wintermute realized it was a perfect time to escape... with his pot of soup.  

Josh turned the corner and started firing with his revolver, to no avail. 

Parks could hear the gunshots from inside and ran to the front door, only to find it locked.  The other investigators were being a bit too careful.   After a flustered moment, be decided to run around the side of the house to get to the backyard.  

Dodging everything that had been thrown at it, the serpent person cast some sort of charm or bewilderment on Steve, forcing him to put down his weapon.   Josh tried to pick up the shotgun while it was still in Steve's hand, but only succeeded in blasting a hole in the plaster ceiling

Wintermute could not find a safe place for his soup, so proceeded to run out the back door and around to the front, riding smack into a charging Parks.   Both were scalded by the soup, and Parks realized the bottom of the pot contained a half-cooked female head.  Wintermute dropped to his knees, picking up the spaghetti noodles  (i.e. blonde hair) that had fallen out of the pot and onto the bricks of the terrace.   He finally came to and realized that he was eating a human head. 

Cannibalism is fun!

Doc Millheim, still holding his camera, decided to take some pictures of the creatures, and the flash effectively blinded it.   Parks finally gathered his senses, charged through the back door, and without a moment of hesitation, fired one shot just a bit high, but a second went through the serpent person's skull.

Searching the remainder of the house, they found a syringe full of a strange green ichor, went upstairs and destroyed all the paintings.  Going into the door that Mrs. Shipley tried to lure Nichols into, they discovered another painting with a tarp over it.  Taking off the tarp unveiled a picture of a small island with a monolith on it, surrounded by a swamp.    Soon, the objects in the painting began to shimmer and move, so Dr Wintermute blew it apart with a shotgun blast.

On a second trip to the basement, they did discover a secret door that contained a odd assortment of items.  A collection of various books, some mysterious herbs, and a stone vat which held a decapitated female body. 

They piled all the painting together and set numerous fires on each floor, before jumping into a taxi and heading back to the hotel.

No sign of Shipley

No sign of Nichols

Keeper Notes:  We had a short handed session with Bob, Nate, and Brian in attendance.  Bob kept the other player's investigators locked into their rooms, until they were needed in the return to Shipley's house.  

I'm very sad to see Brian Nichols go.  He was one of the first three investigators in the very first scenario of this campaign that was run nearly seven years ago!  Sure, we have huge gaps of time between sessions, but he had survived 23 previous sessions on guile, pluck, and a sheer desire to stay alive.  He may not be gone forever, but in his condition, it's best to bid our friend farewell.

Next:  Masks Part 5:  Let's Go to the Zoo!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Apathy of the New Releases (Feb '15)

It's a big month for gaming, with some companies releasing a ton of product.  Many would be no-brainers for most stores, but I am going to cover something that does require a bit of a brain, and possibly some common sense (those two are not always mutually inclusive):   Pulling the plug/giving something a second chance.

Most gamers are either dead-set in their ways, so even the most elaborate demos couldn't make them part with their money for a game outside of their realm, or they're subject to the whims of chaos, buying into each trend as they come out, but just enough to barely play, or however long it takes for the next trend to launch. 

For a customer, dropping a couple of bucks, heck, even two or three hundred dollars on a game only to shelve it is a bit painful, but hopefully they've derived some joy out of it that may equate to a dollar amount.

For a store owner, large scale orders of whimsey could kill a business.   Heck, even calculated, well-budgeted and supported forays into a product line could sufficiently draw business focus away from the store's bread and butter and might not break even.

For my Imaginary Store List, I don't list every item that Game Trade Monthly lists.  I use my eight years experience as a game store manager, the chatter at the local FLGS, my friends, and a little bit from the internet, my general preferences of what games I could promote and make money and what games I would be stupid not to promote to make money to make the list. 

I'm constantly going over that criteria to see if I need to axe a line for the make believe store, or if I need to consider the options. 

Early on in the Apathy columns, I was listing the Dystopian Wars releases from Spartan Games.  Need concept, quirky game, but a low buy in for new players, three things I'm looking for when ordering game I don't play.  Unfortunately, the factions expanded and everything just seemed to look the same.  Then they released Dystopian Legions the 30mm version and the figure costs and such made me decide that if I'm not selling enough what I've already ordered (a 50/50 chance in my imagination) I would curtail the line, and ultimately, liquidate product. 

From time to time, I have listed a few of the sets and vehicles under my "Money is No Object List," but unless I had special orders, I would rarely stock a single items for the coolness factor alone.

This month, I've decided to stop list third-party Pathfinder products under the store listing?  Why?  In many cases, they seem redundant to current in-stock books Paizo publishes directly.  Secondly, just like the d20 glut, the quality of the books appears sketchy at best.  Finally, unless I was moving a large portion of them (and probably rarely re-ordering), they take up a lot of shelf space I would rather experiment with a different product line.   

Paizo releases a huge variety of Pathfinder products, it's tough enough to keep up with those lines (and hope they sell) than the tertiary products from companies than I'll never see again.  As much as the gamer side of me wants it to be, even an imaginary game store shouldn't be a library.

My Want List
'Nuttin

My Money-is-No-Object Want List
Catalyst Game Labs
BATTLETECH: LANCE PACKS Command ....... ……………………………………… $19.99
BATTLETECH: LANCE PACKS Recon …………...…………………………………... $19.99
Getting the Introductory Set for Christmas has sparked my interest again, but let's play a game or two first before going wild.

Khepera Publishing ATLANTIS - THE SECOND AGE: THERAGRAPHICA HARDCOVER … $35.95

Spartan Games
As I stated earlier, I have some questions stocking even one of Spartan's lines.   However, certain items could pique my interest.   While I don't have much interest in their new Republique du France or the Covenant of Antarctica, Antarctica's Automata Robots ($27.95) have a cool Steampunk Legions of Steel vibe to them.
 


My Imaginary Store List
Alderac Entertainment Group
DARK SEAS .................................................................................................................. $39.99
Stake your claim as the greatest pirate of all time! Build a pirate empire in the uncharted. Plunder Islands!

Legends of the Five Rings CCG: Twenty Festivals
Starters and Boosters

Ares Games
Sails of Glory - new ships ranging between $17.90 and $29.90

Atlas Games
Ars Magica: Through the Aegis HC ................................................................................ $32.95
Three Cheers for Master ................................................................................................... $19.95
Master Has Been Blue, Lately! It’s just not the same now that all lands known to evil have been conquered. When Master’s blue, it’s the minions who suffer. As a lieutenant in Master’s army — a foreminion — it falls to you to cheer him up. Not the easiest task, even in the best of times. But then it hits you: What better way to cheer Master up than a cheerleading competition? Whichever foreminion builds and scales the most impressive tower of war-hungry minions will surely win Master’s heart. What could possibly go wrong? Scheduled to ship in March 2015.

Bellweather Games
Antidote .............................................................................................................................. $18.00

Catalyst Game Labs
Battletech: Combat Manual Kurita HC ............................................................................... $29.95

SHADOWRUN RPG: DARK RESONANCE PB …………………...………………….. $12.95
SHADOWRUN RPG: SHAKEN – NO JOB TOO SMALL PB ……………………........ $12.95
VALIANT UNIVERSE RPG: TRANSCENDENTS EDGE HC …………… ………...... $39.99

Cheapass Games
Stuff and Nonsense …………………………………………………………………… $25.00

Cheeky Dingo Entertainment 
ELFQUEST ADVENTURE GAME …………………………………………………… $29.95

Cryptozoic
ADVENTURE TIME CARD WARS: ICE KING VS. MARCELINE DECK … $20.00
DC COMICS DECKBUILDING GAME: CROSSOVER PACK #1 JSA …...… $10.00
DC COMICS DECKBUILDING GAME: TEEN TITANS …………………….. $40.00

Cubicle 7
DOCTOR WHO RPG: CORE RULES HC …………………………………………….. $49.99
DOCTOR WHO RPG: THE TENTH DOCTOR SOURCEBOOK HC ………………... $39.99
THE LAUNDRY RPG: AS ABOVE SO BELOW ……………………………………... $24.99

Diamond Comics Distributors
This is where I, as the imaginary store owner, lose my shit. Sure the majority (re: all) of the items solicited under Diamond are non-Gaming but fanboy related, but for every “step forward” so to speak, there’s a “falmpalm” product you are embarrassed to order, but would probably sell 10 times as many.

Electronic Dancing Baby Groot? Depending on price, a great idea and most stores should sell a handful of people who haven’t picked one up via the internet.
Game of Thrones: In Memoriam book? Nice silly, gift, but it would be dated by the time Christmas rolls around and you could move a couple. Poor timing.
Chicks Dig Gaming: Collections of essays about anything gaming only cover the hardcore demographic and one or two confused persons. Not saying you can’t move this, but it’s more likely to be read by bored staff on a snow day than purchased on a whim by a customer.

Which leads us to the least gaming-related and most gamer-stereotypical book offered: The American Boobs Book. A hardcover book covering breasts , boobs, and everything in between (most call that cleavage). From my time working at Dreamscape Comics back in the 90’s, this book would have three or four pre-orders MINIMUM, and the copy for the shelf would be restocked two or three times a year! Sure, there’s an influx of female and minority gamers, but you know who has more disposable income as a group? The creepy male gamers who love ta-tas.  


Expeditious Retreat Press
Advanced Adventures #32: The Palace Beyond …………………………………….. $12.00

Fantasy Flight Games
STAR WARS X-WING: IMPERIAL  RAIDER EXPANSION PACK ….................  $99.95
TALISMAN: THE DEEP REALMS EXPANSION …................................................ PI
WARHAMMER 40K DARK HERESY 2ND ED RPG:  ENEMIES WITHIN HARDCOVER $39.95

Gale Force Nine
D&D Temple of Elemental Evil – Gar Shatterkeel ….$30.00
D&D Temple of Elemental Evil – Water Mymidon …. $30.00
Elemental Node of Water Game Mat ………$20.00

Games Workshop
Cutting Mat …. $15.00
Palette Pad … $8.00
Project Box $66.00
Ultimate Paint Set $560.00
An official GW Mat for five bucks more than you can grab at a craft shop?  Sounds about right.   For the price of a palette pad can grab enough discount tiles to have my whole family paint, and work on the backsplash around my stove.  There are arts and crafts project cases at Toys R Us that are a third of the price (although the colors could be a bit bright than the "cool" black.  And that paint set can't be a great one-time purchase for a customer, although I could imagine cannibalising that sucker for the paint display, especially if there's a minimum paint order through GW.

40K: Shield of Baal Deathstorm $125.00
Space Marine Blood Angels Codes $49.50
Space Marine Blood Angels Death Company $33.00
Space Marine Blood Angels Sanguinary Priest $30.00
SPACE MARINE CRIMSON SLAUGHTER $135.00
SPACE MARINE DARK ANGELS $140.00
SPACE MARINE BLOOD ANGELS SONS OF SANGUINIUS PAINTING GUIDE $33.00
SPACE MARINE BLOOD ANGELS TACTICAL SQUAD … $43.00
SPACE MARINE BLOOD ANGELS TERMINATOR ASSAULT SQUAD … $60.00
SPACE MARINE BLOOD ANGELS TERMINATOR LIBRARIAN $30.00
TYRANID INVASION SWARMS  TYRANIDS PAINTING GUIDE $33.00
TYRANID SHIELD OF BAAL: LEVIATHAN (ENGLISH) $74.25
TYRANID TYRANNOCYTE  $63.00
TYRANID VENOMTHROPES  $66.00
WARHAMMER FANTASY BATTLES KHAINE (ENGLISH) $66.00
Wallets weep.  Game store owners squeal with delight.

Goodman Games
DUNGEON CRAWL CLASSICS: #35A MINI – HALLS OF THE MINOTAUR …. $9.99
DUNGEON CRAWL CLASSICS: #67 MINI - SAILORS ON THE STARLESS SEA … $9.99
GRIMTOOTHS ULTIMATE TRAPS COLLECTION HARDCOVER …….. $49.99
DUNGEON CRAWL CLASSICS: #79 MINI - FROZEN IN TIME … $9.99
DUNGEON CRAWL CLASSICS: #83 THE CHAINED COFFIN BOX SET .. $39.99

Konami Digital Entertainment
YU-GI-OH! TCG: PREMIUM GOLD - RETURN OF THE BLING DISPLAY (5)

Modiphius
ACHTUNG! CTHULHU RPG: ELDER GODLIKE … $32.99
DUST ADVENTURES RPG: CORE RULEBOOK HARDCOVER … $54.99
DUST ADVENTURES RPG: OPERATION APOCALYPSE CAMPAIGN ….. $32.99
ACHTUNG! CTHULHU RPG: ZERO POINT-HEROES OF THE SEA … $23.99
ACHTUNG! CTHULHU RPG: TERRORS OF THE SECRET WAR … 28.99

Monte Cook Games
NUMENERA RPG:   WEIRD DISCOVERIES $24.99

Mongoose
TRAVELLER RPG 2300AD: BAYERN … $24.99
TRAVELLER RPG 2300AD: THE AEROSPACE ENGINEER’S HANDBOOK … $24.99
TRAVELLER RPG: REFT SECTOR MAP PACK .. $12.99

Paizo Publishing
PATHFINDER ADVENTURE CARD GAME: WRATH OF THE RIGHTEOUS BASE SET $59.99
PATHFINDER TALES: FORGE OF ASHES PAPERBACK $9.99
PATHFINDER MAP PACK: SEA CAVES $13.99
PATHFINDER PLAYER COMPANION: COHORTS AND COMPANIONS $12.99
PATHFINDER: UNCHAINED HARDCOVER $39.99
PATHFINDER ADV PATH: GIANTSLAYER PART 3 - FORGE OF THE GIANT GOD … $22.99
PATHFINDER ADV CARD GAME: WRATH OF THE RIGHTEOUS CHARACTER ADD-ON DECK .. $19.99

PALLADIUM
Rifter #70 …. $11.95

Pinnacle
Savage Worlds RPG: Karthador …. $35.00

Rogue Games
Rogue Games produces Colonial Gothic, a historical horror game set in the Revolutionary War. Given my eclectic tastes, I’ve been ordering the random book that been solicited. This month, they solicit EIGHT different books. There’s no notes on most of them if they are current publications or scheduled to be released. What’s a small store to do?
Probably not order any of them. 

Even in this age of social media and handheld internet access, I’m not going to research a game line unless I have an active player base with the potential to buy these items. That time is better spent promoting existing lines or even blowing out the overstock on eBay (it is inventory season for tax time).


Steve Jackson Games
Mars Attacks: Ten Minute Takedown ........................................................................... $9.95

Twilight Creations
Zombies!!! Bag o' Brains Pink  ..................................................................................... $5.99
Zombies!!! Bag o' Zombies Deluxe Glowing 3rd Edition .............................................$12.99

Wizards of the Coast
D&D 5th Edition: Dungeon Master's Screen ..........................................................$14.95

WizKids
D&D Attack Wing: Bahumat ...................................................................................$79.99
Marvel Heroclix: Ant-Man Boxed Set ............................................................................ $49.99
Marvel Heroclix: Classic Avengers .................................................................................$14.95
Marvel Heroclix: Avengers Assemble Boosters

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Sins of a Magic Player

A long time ago, I ran into a now-deleted blog post detailing seven reasons why you should hire a Magic the Gathering player.

Basically, the reasons mimicked the benefits to playing D&D: better math skills, developed imagination, and broader interpersonal skills.

These very well could be true, but in a workplace environment, I call baloney.

Stereotypes are horrible things to base an individual on, but sometimes there is a hint of truth. These statements are based on the idea that Magic: The Gathering is actually brought up during the interview process.
 

After spending six hours with 40 current Magic players during the Fate Reforged pre-release, I can certainly attest that there's plenty of variety in the community, so long as you're white and male.  For example, you may or may not have a beard or glasses.  It's quite all-encompassing.

"I'm a gamer!"  is something I have never said in an interview, UNLESS it was for a job at a local shop.  Even a decade and a half removed from being store manager at Griffon Games, my interviewers have seemed tempted to inquire about it, but I shoot them down quickly, harping on inventory and staff management, product promotion, and personalized customer service experiences.  Yes, somewhere in that last sentence I admitted I may teach people games in order to sell them product, so the assumption is not that I'm working there for a place to level my Paladin.

As someone who does the hiring process at work, I would much rather someone who admits to playing Dungeons and Dragons than Magic?  Why?   For starters, D&D is double Magic's age, which means it's had a longer influence on a wider swath of the population.   It's geek mainstream without the hundreds of late-night hours of sedentary "zone out"  that's more akin to World of Warcraft and computer games but definitely comes up regularly in Magic tournaments.  While this single-minded devotion might be good in certain professions, most jobs require some degree of adaptability that exceeds the direct strategy of Magic.  I want people who can work off a script  as well as off the cuff and too many times I've thrown a card down that isn't on the decklist of the day off the internet and players either outright panic or freeze up.

DB Extraordinaire - Whenever you get 32 people of a similar interest together in one room, there are going to be jerks.  A few you can pick out within seconds of observation, but some are hidden, almost passive aggressive.  I have enough of those within my department to begin with.  Magic seems to be the new kingdom for those rules lawyers, college frat boy, and master jerkwads who either perseverate on in-game minutae that doesn't matter or excessively laud over some month old YouTube video that was barely funny back there.  

And no matter how good you are at the job, I don't want you to be a dick.  That eliminated at least 10 out of the 32 players at the average tourney

Late night card forays and finances -  The old guideline in parenting is: Don't do let your kids do what you did when you were their age.  You were stupid back then.  Sure, I've had plenty of bleary eyed weeknight Magic sessions, and lived to tell about it.  I've spent money on cards that were overvalued, but that doesn't mean I want the same twenty-something decision making process in my business!

This should eliminate about 6 out of the 32, however some of these could be picked out by simply reviewing resumes.

You ain't all smart - A misconception of the stereotype of computer programmers and rocket scientists playing this game.  I've run into enough brain-dead knuckle-draggers A seven year old with certain decks can destroy the opposition.  I openly admit that the only person who blocked my path to my only 1st place finish was an eight year old kid with a goblin deck that hummed like a high-performance sports car.    Knowing what all the cards do, reading all the novels, following all the tournament results just makes you a dork, and every person can be a dork about the subjects they love.    Enjoying Magic does not mean you understand Calculus, can balance a checkbook, or comprehend anything beyond "the stack." 

That's another 8 or so.

That leaves 8 out of the imaginary 32 Magic players applying for the job.   Throw in extenuating circumstances and that might leave 4 decent candidates.   How does one get over the last hurdle and shine in an interview where Magic is mentioned.

*Accentuate the positives:  It's a long time hobby/I've been playing for a long time, It's great to play with my friends and even family.   Anything to show you're an engaging and social person

*Don't take the bait:  If I do drop an Aggro Green reference or some other terminology, don't chomp on the bit.   Nimble around the edges to acknowledge a non-work connection and wrap it up in less than ten seconds.  Unless you're interviewing for a retail position, or a job at Wizards, nobody really cares. 

*Downplay the negative: Unless the business sponsors an after work Magic league, don't mention dropping hundreds on single cards, or buying packs by the case.  Even if you are a regular at Friday Night Magic and love to go to Pro Tour Qualifiers, saying "I love to play, when I have the chance, thanks to demands with the family, significant other, trained surfing  otter, feeding the homeless" is a nice way to put things.  Of course, if you're on the Pro Tour and getting earnings, that might be a point to bring up in the interview, since you would needs fairly regular time off.

When interviewing, I simply want to make sure the competency on your resume translate to competency in the person to person interview.    I want you to have a life outside of the company, heck I don't mind if you have shared interests with your co-workers.

Just don't harp that you play Magic (paint Warhammer/run D&D) like a a boss.  Especially when I have the final say on whether or not I become your boss.
 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

(IOU) Wasabi Jones

Wasabi Jones
Funk Guitar Player on Comeback Tour (5)
Fast-Ass Mofo from Japan (3)
Sympathy for Orphans (3)
Die Hard Reagan Republican (1)

Injected with the DNA from Zombie Jesse Owens. 

Enemy: Snake Gandhi (8+ on 2d6)

Equip:    Funk Guitar, oversized headband
 
Wasabi Jones has been one of our long-running characters in IOU.   Formerly a Washed-Up Funk Guitar Player on a Comeback Tour (4), I've always pictured Wasabi as a black guy with an offensively outrageous Japanese accent.  Throw in some Reaganomics to insult conservatives and he's one of the larger pleasures of the campaign. 

You would be surprised how often Sympathy for Orphans can be used to his advantaged during a game about college, but it did also prevent him from destorying the Antichrist in one session (Per the holy book of the Bloodhound Gang, the Antichrist is Emmanuel Lewis, aka Webster.)

 

Friday, January 23, 2015

(Kickstarter) Fightin' Fungi Miniatures

The holiday season must be over, as companies are again wandering out onto Kickstarter with new projects

Fightin' Fungi is Ganesha Games first entry into producing a line of unique, high quality, metal miniatures for use with the Song of Blades and Heroes fantasy skirmish game(SoBH).
 
The six core figures above and a pdf copy of the the will run you $30.  The minis and a hardcopy of them will be $40.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Fate Reforged Pre-Release Tournament

I've been playing Magic on and off for 21 years and while I don't have a bucket list of what I'd like to do, I had not participated in an official pre-release tournament for one of the new sets.

That is, until this weekend.

With an active FLGS and a large fan base, it would be foolish for me not to try jump in on the excitement.  I've slowly been drafting Khans of Tarkir when I have some time on Sundays.  There are some definite quirks with the the set that I don't like, but there are plenty of elements that intrigue me to continue.  With the new set, Fate Reforged, they promised a couple new mechanics/options, and a whole lot of freaking dragons!

*Disclaimer:  Since the majority of my readers were Magic players over a decade ago.  The terminology I may use makes sure their eye don't gloss over the bazillion new special abilities that have come out. Heck, I probably won't cover much more than some castings costs.

I got to the store around 11:20pm and the place was already jumping.  It seemed that over 40 people had showed up to play!  It did put a strain on the inventory they had received to run three tournaments over the course of the weekend, but the last thing you want are upset gamers late at night.  Taco Bell would be doomed!

Luckily, I had called in to confirm space earlier in the afternoon and Joe, the owner, pencilled my name in a spot.

Casual play before the prerelease
By about 12:20am, all the money had exchanged hands and the lists printed.  As this was considered a "constructed" event (special box set, not the traditional starter decks you old timers might remember),  each  of the four clans that had been introduced in Khans had their own box you could pick.

In hindsight, I was an idiot and picked Sultai.

I've been intrigued by the Delve ability, where for each card from your graveyard  you remove from the game (exile) you reduce the cost of certain spells by one colorless.  I've drafted the bulk of the Sultai rares, so it was a good time to put it to the test using a set dedicated to them.

First, the contents of the box:
From @cssilver on Twitter.  Their clan was Temur, but same set up
Inside were three packs of the new set, one pack of Khans of Tarkir, a shrinkwrapped pack of cards dedicated to the clan (Each pack appeared to be different.  The guy next to me also had Sultai and we did not have identical cards, even the prerelease promo card!)  You also got a Spindown Life Counter (a d20 with all the numbers in order so you didn't need to search for the number) a pin with the clan symbol, and two sheets  of paper.  One was just an overview of the clan and their special abilities.  The second was a subgame for the tournament.

In the storyline on this set's world, some Khan is going back in time to save all the dragons, rather than killing them.  Each player had a clan specific checklists of actions.  Once enough players complete their objectives, Ugin, some badass planeswalking dragon would be revealed and special promo packs handed out.
My paltry attempt.  I'll explain why shortly.
Spoilers:  Enough people succeeded and some of the promo packs had some pretty sweet cards in them.

Sultai is a collection of Blue, Green, and Black cards, and I noticed one disturbing trend:  I had very little blue (12 cards total).  I had a ton of high casting cost green and black cards with Delve, but no blue cards to either stall my opponent or self "Mill" me.  Even among my Gold cards I had one copy of the enchantment that let's you during your  look at the top two cards of your deck and put any number of them into your graveyard and the rest back on top in any order (Sultai Ascendancy).   I was not going to rely on less than a handful of cards to make or break the deck, so I cobbled together a green/black deck of 46 cards.

The first match was an utter and total disaster.  I did have green and black creature removal (Return to the Earth: Destroy Target artifact, enchantment, or creature with flying for 3G was pretty handy), but I was overwhelmed with low and mid casting cost red/green creatures early and often.  In fact, my opponent stalled the inevitable win and allowed me to play some creatures just so he could accomplish items on his checklist!

After losing 0-2, we played two more games off the record and I pulled more cards to get it down to the minimum of 40, but as the judge called five minutes left in the round, I realized that this batch of Sultai was complete junk.

I quickly assembled my other cards I pulled from packs and built a 41 card red/white deck.  It may sound confusing for you old folks who were confused about a 15-card sideboard but in booster draft and constructed formats, you can pull and add from the cards provided.  I was still resleeving my new deck from the old one as the match ups for the second round were posted.

I had some mana issues with the second match (never got over four land and Pyrotechnics is 4R,) but the deck held it's own.  My main issue was that, in the panic to build the deck, cards I thought were creatures were, in fact, creature enchantments.  I had little room to adjust, but my 40 card deck was tuned up.

My third round opponent was suffering the same delusions I had with the original black/green deck, except he was complicating things by running three colors.   My low casting cost creatures ran roughshod over his defenses and I learned to love the Siege Cards:


The set isn't out yet, much less tournament legal, and I want to throw four of the red ones in to a goblin deck.

Needless to say, it was a total victory on my part, 2-0  (2-4 overall)

For the fourth round, I was up against blue/white control and despite a good showing, I fell 1-2 (3-6 overall)

At that point it was quarter after five in the morning, my wife was waking up at six to go to work, and I had taken her car.  The final round wouldn't start until 5:45 and even a miraculous sweep wouldn't even get me to crack the top twenty.  It was time to go home.

So,  I certainly didn't get to see all the cards for the new set, but what do I think are the top cards (from my packs)?
 
#5  Arashin Cleric


This fella is no Samite Healer from back in the day, but the pair of them that I drew were the MVPs of attack and defense.

#4 Destructor Dragon
A 4/4 flyer for a bit more than a Treefolk AND a special ability AND it' uncommon.  Not too shabby.

#3 Crux of Fate

Didn't get to play this one in my first match, but a black Wrath with a Dragon option?  Sweet.

#2 Siege Outpost

As I mentioned this earlier, this helped me out a LOT using the Khans option, especially in cases where the exiled card was a land and my draw was a land.  Once you get your creatures out, the Dragons option adds that right amount of insult to injury.

Honorable Mention:  Warrior Token

Yes, plenty of people at the tournament were going gaga over Ugin, or all the other special cards in some of the clan boxes, but I heard the most subtle "that's really nice" comments coming from this full card art token.

#1 Humble Defector
I'm old school when it comes to Magic cards, and this one screamed Ghazban Ogre AND MORE to me.  I don't know what the modern equivalent of Wanderlust is, but I want to slap three of them on this and tap it to draw cards.  Hilarity ensues.

This might explain why I didn't crack the top half.  Oh well...

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Putin on a Bear vs Gnome Chomsky

While I have a disdain for most internet inspired catch phrases, I'm not embarrassed to say that some days are full of win.

Monday gifted me not one, but two doses of awesome that are appropriate for this blog.



While that is the one that's burning up the internet, I'm more intrigued by their Garden OM! series of meditating garden gnomes.

Gnome Chomsky looks to start at $75 unpainted and the meditating gnome starts unpainted for $26.

In other news of the awesome, a company in Russia is producing shirtless Vladimir Putin action figures riding a bear.

Details are sketchy on this one, as it is a Russian company, but if one can use a Thor action figure to represent the God/Deity unit, Shirtless Putin needs to be used for a modern Russian army.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

My FLGS Went Away

It would be  a sad, sad weekend.   I drove to my FLGS, Emerald Vale Games, and the doors were locked, all the stock and shelves removed. 

Well, it would be sad, if they hadn't moved right down the street to 109 West End Rd Wilkes-Barre, PA, next to Colarusso's Pizza, a mere two blocks or so away from the original location.

As I mentioned previously, that had taken over the dance studio adjacent to them and opened a wall for a Games Workshop room.   When the tattoo parlor on the other side got kicked out, they planned to do the same thing to allow a role-playing room and dedicated CCG area, but the extra square footage kicked in zoning guidelines for HVAC requirements, and it was much cheaper to move to more square footage than pay for a larger HVAC unit.

At first impression, I was a bit disturbed by the location.  It's literally on the other side of the tracks, across the street from a shipping warehouse and the strip mall has on poor front entrance.  I had been told that the entrance to the store was going to be in the back, where there was a large amount of extra parking.  When I swung by on Thursday to check it out, the rear parking lot was a mess and steel rear door, garage door adjacent to it, and poor lighting gave me the heebee jeebies.  My first thought was, if I became squeamish from this environment, what about the Games Workshop parents?

The good news is, when I came for the Fate Reforged Pre-release, there is a traditional entrance for the store front portion in the front of the building (right next to my doctor, no less).  Currently, the wargames tables are out in the sales area, which would become rather inconvenient once the store's inventory grows.

The back room (where the steel and garage doors lead to) is huge, so it should easily hold 64 players
The storefront portion is still in the process of unpacking so I won't do thorough  review of the new store for a few weeks while they set everything up.   I would still prefer all of the non-role-playing tables to be set in their giant back room, but that can create it's own set of issues. 

They left the poor Pop Tarts!  *sniff*

 

Monday, January 19, 2015

A Gaming Weekend to Remember

First off, I am getting old in my old age. 

I took advantage of a calm weekend around the house and ventured forth to play games *gasp*.

Friday night, I sung a slew of frantic lullabies to get my youngest daughter back to sleep so I could dash out of the house at 11pm to go to the Fate Reforged Midnight Pre-Release tournament at Emerald Vale Games.  Eventually, there will be a full write-up of the event, but in spite of horrible cards in my Sultai box and some radical changes to give myself a fighting chance, I got home at 5:30 in the morning with some neat promos, some older cards in trade, and an overall positive experience.

After three hours of sleep I spent the days with my daughters.  Although everyone wanted to game, tired-old Dad couldn't get motivated to pop some gnomes on the table.  Perhaps sometime this week.

Sunday was a drive down to Allentown to re-ignite the flames of our Call of Cthulhu campaign.  While my mountain perch was warm, dry, and with peaks of sun, the further south I travelled the worse the roads got.  Not entirely the roads were at fault, but the drivers had been shell shocked from a dreadful morning of ice and more than a few refused to do more than 20mph, even when the temp hit closer to 40.  Despite everyone's travel delays, everyone made it in one piece and we had a session full of missing persons reports, motorcycle crashes, racial epithets, and flaming police cars.  The investigators have reached the climax for London in Masks of Nyarlathotep, and with a month to plan what's going on... everyone's probably dead.

I also discovered another Wawa close to Nate's home, so I fulfill my wife's mandatory food order everytime I venture out to game. 

My Two Pieces of GM Advice

The Dungeon Masters Guide for 5th Edition was recently released admit great acclaim.   Apparently, the most glowing praise is that it is "chock full of DM advice and random charts."

Okay, its the AD&D 1st DMG reincarnated.  Big whoop.

Everywhere I look, I've seen people demanding a rulebook contain a section on how to be a better DM/GM/Keeper/Referee/Storyteller/Dude Behind the Screen.   But when push comes to shove, the people who need that section the most (newbie or poor GM)  is going to gloss over things and do what they want to do.

And let's be honest, even the Call of Cthulhu d20 rulebook, which is universally applauded for their How to Run a Game/Be a Keeper section, did not provide any deep dark secrets.

The two "duh" rules of running a game

#2 Be prepared with the material

#1 Be organized

and of course, Rule #0  If everyone has fun, throw just about everything else out the window.

That all is good and fine, and it gets you to the table, but there's got to be something else if you want long term playability in a game.  So for this guidance, I look to... myself.

For all my years of GMing, I've consistently received two compliments:

A) I can step up to anything any player can throw at me in any system.  I have an answer to just about anything without cracking open a book or substantially delaying the game AND my on-the- fly decisions aren't detrimental to game play.  Even in the most railroaded scenario, where you are the engineer, starting forward, you need to at least know where the side tracks and spurs could take everyone, even if it derails the train.  And in the most extreme situation, you need to know subtle things like, what colors are the leaves beside the tracks.  Details that are consistent with game-logic should be created on the fly, not just to keep the with campaign coherence, but more importantly, to maintain GM control.  Even the friendliest players can smell blood, and even though (most) games aren't a competition, it can devolve into that quickly. 

A lot of this can be applied to the practical corrolary of Rule #0:  Never say no to your players, but the price of yes might be too high.

B) I can also take a step back, observe what's going one and formulate the ramifications of significant actions, on screen and off.   I have an uncanny knack of keeping the campaign world connected.  Not every beggar child the PCs push around becomes an evil overlord seeking vengeance, but PC actions (or inactions) may logically affect anything in the world, from allowing evil centers of power to regroup/disappear, to simply affecting the price of wheat in the region.   I pre-ordain some NPCs inherently good, while others are rotten to the core, regardless of any but the most extreme measures the PCs take.    I also try to maintain full command of the campaign setting.  My Georic fantasy games have an every expanding future timeline which progresses largely regardless of player actions.  The PCs may have affected the price of wheat in Khemmet, but that just added fuel to the fire of the civil unrests that local opposition had planned months before.    Likewise, power vaccuums are to be abhorred.  Someone, or something needs to fill that void, even if it's temporary. 

During the Journey of Mutumbo, two of the party members got kidnapped by cultists and the party was unable to rescue them, barely escaping with their own lives.   Unlike some who chalked them up as lost forever, I played out the actions of the captured PCs and NPCs around them behind the scenes.  While I let the dice fall as they may to determine who broke their charm first and used their background and previous history to determine what would happen. 

Luckily, Dalmar Sworin was the first to break the charm, smart enough to realize that playing along was the best option, and once other broke the charm and could aid him, everyone could escape and he had significant influence over these new people, even more so that the PC's party.  From there, he decided the best option was to travel the opposite direction the party had been going, and settled in the town of Saltmarsh.    The rest is documented history.

Trust me when I say that if someone else had broken their charm before the mage, the Duchy of Sworin in any form would not have existed and the power of the Kingdom of Crosedes would not be challenged as it has been since.

And pray for the entire southwestern corner of Crosedes if Thundarr the half-orgre barbarian had somehow made his save first.  

Thundarr, in his Hulk cosplay

 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

(IOU) Erica Soggypants



Erica Soggypants
Obsessed with Rachel Green (5)
On the Rag (4)
Depressed Bulimic (3)
Adolescent Bitch (1)

Equip: Tampons, Prozac, Pictures of Rachel Green.

Friday, January 16, 2015

(Kickstarter) Pyramid of the Lost King

I'm not one to normally look at Fantasy RPG stuff on Kickstarter.   I have a pile of stuff at the house that's older than my wife, and if I exhaust that, there's Hackmaster out the whazoo on my shelves.

I decided to support Pyramid of the Lost King, Adventures in Basq for two reasons.  For starters, it's being done locally.  Some of the playtesting was even done at last Fall's Mepacon.  Secondly, my daughter Maja has been in a year-long fascination with Egypt, and anything with pyramids and sand might be great fodder, regardless if we're using D&D 5e, TIARA, or TWERPS. 

I figure pledging for a hard copy of the scenario will net me a more positive experience than Starfall Over the Plateau of Leng. 

 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Green Bay Packers Have Wood for Catan

As a New York Giants fan that can celebrate more Lombardi Trophies than we probably deserve, I had no horses in this weekends NFL Conference Championships.

I believe the Green Bay Packers get the nod, if only for their team-building game night, per this Wall Street Journal article.

A few quick comments: 

First off, anytime the NFL can shed their hustler/murderer/wife beater image of the select few the 24-hour news cycle wants to harp on, it's a great thing.   An NFL playbook is far more complicated that the rules for Settlers (even with all the expansions tacked on), plus we are dealing with college-educated men.   While some leave college early, most have legitimate degrees from respectable institutions.  More than half of the stars from the football factories burn out in just a few years, yet a surpising number of those that have long term success come from the Morehouse States, Southern Chattanoogas, and Mississppi Valley States, as well as some pretty obscure Divison II schools.

Second, if I were to guess the team for this article, between location, weather, and the organizational structure, it would be Green Bay.  They're classy like that.  The Colts

Third, offensive lineman rule! 

Fourth, the Green Bay gaming shop is Gnome Games.  Perhaps they should work with the players for a few complimentary copies of games in exchange for continued publicity?     Regardless, one of the better store websites I've seen.

Five, as a father who is stuck with Candyland, Trouble, and Don't Rock the Boat each night, board games rock.

 

CoC #23: Masks of Nyarlathotep - New York, Part Three

February 3, 1925
Dr Robert Wintermute "Dr Bob"  had spent the last week and a half back in Arkham.  He had picked up a archeology grad student named Anthony Parks (or Porkins, they seemed interchangable) and began his research in the Orne Library.  Parks translated the German edition of Nameless Cults.  They did find similarities with the Brotherhood of the Beast mentioned in the book and the Cult of the Bloody Tongues, Cult of the Black Wind,  Brotherhood of the Black Pharaoh which had been alluded to previously in Jackson Elias' research.

Parks had grown uneasy with all this strange reading, so to calm the young man down, Dr Bob invited him back to his place, where his cook would whip up a batch of comfort food on the cold evening.  

Friiiiiiiieeeeed chicken!  And perhaps some Manhatten Juleps is the young man could keep a secret (and he had been performing admirably thus far).

Except when they arrived at Dr Bob's home, it wasn't the smell of fried chicken throughout the house, but warm brandy.   A certain Ambrose Mogens was sitting in one the comfy chairs in Dr Bob's parlor. 

Anthony was dispatched to the kitchen to make some drinks and a rather one-sided discussion was conducted as Mogens stated that once he discovered who was responsible for the torching of his estate in Queens, he could have easily squashed the investigators like a bug.  

"If you listen to reason, you will avoid New York entirely, and I will not pursue a course of well-deserved revenge."  

In defense of a startled and mightily terrified Dr Bob, he did manage to garner some information out of Mogens  regarding the Cult of the Bloody Tongue and few more cults he was familiar with. Mogens warned him that the Bloody Tongue was extremely violent and never negotiated.  Of course, they were rather "dumb" as an organization, and relegated themselves to the poorer neighborhoods and only had influence in Africa.  The Cult of the Black Pharaoh was simply the other side of the Bloody Tongue coin, perhaps only separated by geography and language. 

Mogens even acquiesed to a refinement by Dr Bob to his "terms"  the investigators would provide advanced warning and a detailed itinerary to Mogens if they wanted to return to the City and still be permitted to live.

After some uncomfortable small-talk, Mogens stood up and bid the good professor adieu, but not before providing him with a few more crumbs of information.  The Widow Carson (P.I.) had been dispatched to New Orleans to conduct a "big job" which would keep her occupied for the near future, if she managed to survive.  He also advised that Dr Wintermute answered the phone as soon as it rang.   Mogens shut the front door, somehow locking it from the inside, and just then, the phone rang.

It was Dr. Millheim

Brian Nichols was recovering for at least the night in the hospital and Steven O'Hara was put under general anesthesia due to the grievous wounds he suffered under the Giant Oriental beast-man.

Millheim had tried to contact Wintermute first, but he was still in the basement of the library, so he called the next person on a very short list, Joshua Wanisko.  The pair met at Steven O'Hara's brownstone and went over what had transpired before trying Wintermute again.

He filled Wintermute in on the fate of their comrades, Wintermute briefly provided his conversation with Mogens,  and it was determined that the best course of action would be to salvage what they could from their New York offices and homes and head up to Arkham. 

February 4, 1925
Nichols was discharged, and with Steve still having a terrible go at the hospital,  the rest packed up  books, equipment, and whatever weapons they didn't ditch during the police investigation  and hopped a train to Massachusetts for refuge.

They went over Wintermute's new knowledge from Nameless Cults and the inconsistent notes from the team's work in New York.  Harlem and Roger's psych records or treatments that Dr Huston had been glossed over, but they were very excited in the Roger's books that Erica still had in her possession. 

February 5, 1925
Three out of the four books that were in the Carlysle safe were already in the Restricted Collection at Miskatonic, with earlier/better copies to boot.   Without help from the University, Dr Wintermute's good nature (and a good Credit Rating with the bank) netted them about $4,000 to use.

February 6, 1925
Dr Millheim was given permission to enter the Resticted Collection at Orne and gloss over their copy of The Book of the Black Skull.    The SAN loss only provided him a few new storylines for his pulp writing.  A pass-around of the worm-eaten copy of the Livre d'Ivon (see #1) only generated more worry and paranoia. 

February 7, 1925
Steven was released from the hospital, grabbed a few items, and headed up to Arkham.

February 21, 1925
Making sure they wouldn't set foot in New York proper, Wintermute and Parks jumped a train back to the New York border, and hired a car to drive them to the Carlyse estate for the book auction.   However, when they got to the front gates, they were met by a heavily armed security force.  Due to continuing threats Erica Carlylse's life, the auction had been moved to one of the traditional auction houses... in Manhattan.

At the auction house, the invitation and line of credit were still intact.     A desperate request for a phone and an even more desperate call to Mogen's office leaving a professional sounding plea not to be slaughtered for entering the Five Boroughs.   After hanging up the phone, Wintermute was handed a note, simply stating.  "I know.  See you there."  Jeremy Van der Klei, Mogen's top research assistant was in attendance.   Lucky for them Van der Klei was more interested in some Colonial and pre-Colonial texts.

They managed to snag the books for the sum of $3,400, which caused a audible ruckus among one of the telephone bidders.

February 24, 1925
They finally made it back to Arkham unscathed and proceeded to have a sleepover in the parlor, each taking turns skimming to the books, losing Sanity and gaining a little Cthulhu Mythos along the way. 
The party could not come to a consensus as to what the books meant, but they all suffered from bad dreams that night of underwater travel and a single giant yellow eye.

For the men passed out in the parlor, they all woke up within moments of each other, and all could hear the sounds of someone trying to get in.

Joshua scrambled towards the liquor cabinet and grabbed a crystal stopper from a brandy decanter.  No true weapons had been left in the parlor.  Steven scrambled off his chair, tripped, and ripped his stitches out.  Parks hid behind a chair, and Nichols...

Nichols didn't wake up. 

The door crashed in and five Africans, armed with nasty-looking machetes, barrelled in.  Two sprinted up the stairs.  Two others charged into the parlor.  Joshua tried with best by punching one of them, but the best he could do was bruise his own ego.  The other African did short work of the chair Parks was hiding behind and soon ferociously struck the grad assistant.  Parks would  be a goner if it weren't for Joshua, who, in his own brawl, pushed the two assailants into each other.  Parks tried to escape through the kitchen, but only succeeded in pushing Steven into the stove, knocking him unconscious, and unbeknowest to everyone, turning the gas on in the process.   

All the while Nichols slept.

The two that climbed the stairs checked the doors in the upstairs hallway.  One was met by a large explosion through the door and his tattered corpse slumped down along the wall.  Dr Bob and Doc Wintermute had been sleeping upstairs in separate rooms, and both had been awoken from bad dreams and heard the oncoming ruckus.  Millheim ran across the hall into Wintermute's bedroom, as Bob pulled shotguns out of the closet.

The other African upstairs decided not to further investigate and ran down the stairs and out the front door.

By this point, the stars had finally aligned and Nichols woke up from his corner seat to witness a full-out brawl mere steps away from him.  He pulled out his hold-out pistol and fired, but luckily didn't shoot anyone.   Parks had returned from the kitchen with a knife and together, they pummelled him into a bloody pulp.   Joshua had begun grappling his intruder, but no one had the upper hand. 

Dr Bob and Doc Millheim began their way down the stairs, only to catch an African running up the porch with a flaming bottle in his hand.  Bob shot down the man, but the bottle flew and broke open into the foyer.  Bob then proceeded to shoot and kill another African, looking questionable on the walk outside, then hopped the flames in his house to see Joshua finally pin his man to the ground.  The barrel of a shotgun at his head quelled any resistance left in the attacker.

Police, fire, and ambulance were called.  Unknown to the rest of the investigators, Steven did manage to regain consciousness, turned off the open burners on the stove, and painfully slumped against the ice box.

Wintermute wisely played upon this random act of violence with the Arkham police, playing up upon unclean immigrants causing wanton violence in their fair town.  The police bought the story, lock, stock, and barrel, the fire department put out the flames with minimal damage to the home, and Steve (and Parks) were tended to on-site and refused hospital care.

If Arkham wasn't safe from the Cult of the Bloody Tongue, it was time to leave the country.

Dr Bob secured a line of credit and passage was booked on an liner headed to England. 

Once they got aboard, the investigators took this downtime to expand their horizons.  Most of them simply perused their reading collection with growing manic glee.  Steven became fast friends with the engine crew and spent a considerable time below deck tinkering with the ship's engines. (Keeper note:  Steve the player was already quite pleased by his 02% and 04% rolls in Persuade and Mechanical Repair, and his flippant demeanor about his avatar meant he rarely cares about such things as, say, patents for his advancements in engine technology.  The smartest member of the crew could possibly become quite well off, although the shipping line would definitely take credit if they found out.) Joshua decided that picking the locks of various storerooms might net him some much needed practice, but his choice of time to performing the tasks (or the badly failed Hide and Sneak rolls) resulted in him getting knocked around by the crew.   

March 3, 1925
They arrived in London and sent a telegram to Kensington at Prospero.  Dr Bob proceeded to send another telegram, announcing his arrival to various newspapers in regards to an investigation regarding the Carlysle.   If the cultists didn't know they made it to London....

Nichols and Doc Millheim tried to visit editor Mickey Mahoney at the Daily Scoop and Inspector James Barrington at Scotland, but the players were so disorganized they got kicked out of each location for wasting their time.

Next Up:  Part Four:  The Talented Mister Shipley

Of course, for what really happened, check out Jugular Josh's interpretation.
 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Acheson Creations New Mushrooms

For a gnome connoisseur that wants a more garden-like experience, you can't go wrong with the fantasy line from Acheson Creations.

Recently, they released a series of mushroom clumps to accentuate your gnome/fairy enviroment.



 
Check out Acheson here for more information.